TRANS-PACIFIC Partnership (TPP) ministers recently wrapped up meetings in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, for the 19th round of trade talks.
The goal is to conclude talks before the end of the year on a comprehensive trade agreement that can be "game-changing" for America, according to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman.
The regional trade talks include the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The U.S. views TPP as an important component of a robust trade strategy designed to open markets for American exports. Froman said TPP brings together advanced and emerging economies that make up a third of global trade and 40% of global gross domestic product.
In a speech Aug. 19 before the Japan National Press Club, Froman said the rules and norms established within any multilateral agreement "must be more than lofty ideals or appealing catchwords if they are to increase peace and prosperity. They must be embedded in the actions of nations.
"That is why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is so critical," Froman added. "TPP will reinforce the shared determination of Japan, the United States and other TPP countries to create a high-standard, comprehensive, job-supporting agreement that addresses 21st-century trade issues and introduces new disciplines into the global trading system. It will result in an open and transparent, regional economic order that can serve as a roadmap for free, open and transparent markets across the Asia-Pacific."
An ad hoc coalition of agricultural and food organizations, led by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and Cargill, continues to communicate to U.S. trade negotiators its "core" principles for what it would consider a successful final TPP agreement.
Specifically, it said TPP must include all sectors, address sanitary/phytosanitary issues and tariffs and be enforceable.
Individual issues are already testing the ability to accomplish those goals, however.
Nick Giordano, NPPC vice president and counsel for international affairs, said Japan has already declared that seven products, including pork, are off the TPP negotiating table, and it is unwilling to liberalize trade in that area.
"The pork industry and the American agriculture and food industry don't want to be traded off for another segment such as apparel or footwear," Giordano said. "We want tariffs on our products to go to zero, because that's what a free trade agreement is about."
He acknowledged that agriculture will always have certain sensitivities, but he does see a path to the end zone and a good outcome, broadly speaking, for agriculture.
Giordano noted that TPP is especially important, particularly now that World Trade Organization talks are on life support. "It pains me to say it, but multilateral negotiations in (WTO) are about dead, so where is trade liberalization happening? The most important out there is TPP," he said.
There have been minor rumblings in the House to limit approval of trade promotion authority (TPA) to the President, which allows Congress only an up or down vote on trade deals. Giordano doesn't know how aggressively the Administration will push for TPA, although Froman has repeatedly said it is desired and would help advance the U.S. trade agenda.
Giordano contended that if the Administration brings home a strong TPP agreement, it will pass Congress, with or without TPA. He noted that the WTO process "is in paralysis, and I do not see that changing. (TPP) will become a platform for future global trade liberalization."